Birthdays and Vietnamese Shrimp Quinoa Salad

Image Credit: Mobile Chamber of Commerce
Image Credit: Mobile Chamber of Commerce

When my mother went into labor 34 years ago today, she had to make a 30-minute drive to Mobile from the small town where she, my father, and brother had settled. Because my father was at work in Mobile and my mother was too nervous to cross the long causeway that made passage over Mobile Bay possible, my Uncle Sherman volunteered to drive her to the hospital. Fortunately, back then my uncle was a speed demon on the road.

As they drove along country roads cutting through Alabama pine woods and lined with freshly plowed fields prepared for the spring planting, my mother’s contractions increased in frequency. They had just started across the causeway when a particularly strong contraction racked her body.

My uncle lifted his baseball cap. readjusted it on his head, and turned to her. “Aggie,” he said, “Can’t say I’ve ever birthed a baby, but I’ve helped a calf or two come into the world.” My mother, as she tells it, laughed and then silently commanded me to simmer down until she made it to the hospital.

On this day of my birth, I want to thank my mother for going to all that trouble to bring me into the world. The more I think about motherhood and the particular struggles my mother endured to raise my brother and me without her family near her, the more I recognize what a gift she gave to me. Thank you, Mom. Literally I wouldn’t be here without you.

My parents when they were young and spry.
My parents when they were young and spry.

If she were here in Colorado today, I’d be dishing up a bowl of the Vietnamese quinoa salad below. Having grown up along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay and then settled on the Gulf Coast, my mother, like me, is a long-time fan of seafood and Vietnamese flavors.

quinoa salad recipe
Image by Author.

Vietnamese Shrimp Quinoa Salad
Serves 2

For the dressing:
– 6 TBS freshly squeezed lime juice
– 1 TBS Asian fish sauce
– 2 TBS vegetable oil
– 1 1/2 TBS sugar
– 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, plus more if desired

For the salad:
– 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, peeled and de-veined
– 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (or pre-washed)
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into thin bite-sized strips
– 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
– 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
– 2 scallions, finely chopped
– 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Add quinoa, salt and 1-2/3 cups water to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked. Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool.

2. In the meantime, make the dressing by combining the lime juice, Asian fish sauce, vegetable oil, sugar and crushed red pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Add shrimp to the dressing and let marinate until ready to assemble the salad. (I added a little extra fish sauce to amp up the flavor.)

3. Once quinoa is cool, add red bell pepper, carrot, cucumber and scallions to the bowl. Right before serving, add the dressing, shrimp and cilantro and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt, sugar or crushed red pepper flakes if necessary. Serve cold. (I actually prefer this salad warm, but it tasted A-okay cold, too.)

18 Comments Add yours

  1. Lovely story, lovely recipe 🙂

  2. Clanmother says:

    Happy Birthday!!! All the very best on your special day! Moms are the best…

  3. Sophie33 says:

    What a grand story! Thanks for sharing with us! A tasty & appetizing recipe too!

  4. Happy belated birthday, if I’m right.
    I was born at home, by the stove! Apparently the Muttering Patriarch was off fetching the doctor (who arrived sometime after) – on a tractor. I suppose he needed supplies for the farm! Kill two birds with one stone, why not.

    1. gwynnem says:

      Oh, the Muttering Patriarch. My Pop has a Southern man mumble. Perhaps it befalls all men with children. 🙂 You have me beat on the birth story, though!

      Thank you for the birthday wishes, Johnny.

  5. Lesley says:

    Beautiful post and the salad sounds delicious! I love the idea of the fish sauce and shrimp in this and will have to try it. Hope your birthday was wonderful!

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thank you, Leslie. It was a good birthday. Surprise flowers from my husband, a cake and ice cream shindig at work, and a wonderful gift of balloons and chocolates from a dear friend. Nothing better than walking around windy Denver with balloons. I was sure that at any moment I might take flight.

      Hope you give this recipe a try. It’s truly delicious, and you can totally nab quinoa grown in the States now, too.

      1. Lesley says:

        Awww! It sounds like you had a wonderfully sweet day! (glad you weren’t swept away with your balloons!) 🙂

  6. this is delicious! we really enjoyed it with warm quinoa and hot shrimp coming right out of the pan – nice contrast with the cool, crunchy veg.

    1. gwynnem says:

      I’m so happy you gave this recipe a whirl. It’s one of my new favorites! I feel strong enough to lift cars after I eat a bowl of this salad.

  7. Jody and Ken says:

    Ha! Great story, and delicious salad. Happy Birthday! Ken

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks so much, Ken.

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